Why Mary Is Not The Mother Of God

Why Mary Is Not The Mother Of God

Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians frequently refer to Mary as the “Mother of God,” which Protestants object to. Considering the claim of the Catholic Church may even find the name to be a stumbling block. Why? Because to them “Mother of God” implies that God somehow has His origin in Mary. But how could the Creator of all things possibly have a mother?

In our Facebook group, we once had a discussion with a Catholic Catechist about the proper use of the term “Mother of God.” According to him, the term is not meant to exalt Mary but to give her the honor and respect that is rightfully hers for having been chosen to conceive and give birth to Jesus.

Since it is one of the group’s objectives to refute unbiblical doctrines, we tried explaining to him that although Mary is the mother of Jesus, she cannot be the mother of God. This is because God being the Creator of all things in heaven and on earth had no mother and did not need to have one.

Mother of God

Should we call Mary “Mother of God?”

In his book “Mary: Another Redeemer,” Dr. James R. White says that this is the single most misused theological term around. The logic seems inescapable: Jesus is God, come in human flesh. Mary is Jesus’ mother. Hence, Mary is the mother of God. What could be simpler?

Below is a chapter of the book where Dr. White explains more extensively why Mary is not the mother of God. He said that if everyone would just use the term “mother of God” to communicate just that – that Jesus Christ was truly and completely God – there would be no reason for him to include this brief chapter.

But most of the time when the phrase is used, the person using it is not in any way commenting on the fact that Jesus Christ was God and Man on the earth. They are not speaking about Christ at all, but about Mary, and they are using the title to give her a position of honor and power.

If you want to know more about the controversial movement to name Mary as Co-Redeemer with Christ, get the eBook here.

The Origin of the Term

What did the term mean in the ancient church? How is it being misused today? Anyone who reads the writing of the ancient church knows that the word translated “Mother of God” is the Greek term theotokos. Literally, the word means “God-bearer.” It became a title for Mary so that you often find her simply being called theotokos in devotional and theological writings. But where did the term come from?

Around the beginning of the fourth century, Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, first used this term when speaking of Mary. It is no coincidence that it was the teaching of Alexander that prompted the most famous “heretic” of all time – Arius, the great denier of the deity of Christ – to begin propagating his heresy.

Evidently, at that time, even in its earliest uses, the term was meant to say something about Jesus, not Mary. That is, the term was Christological in force. It was focused on Christ and was meant to safeguard the truth about His absolute deity.

The term really entered into the “orthodox” vocabulary through its usage at the Councils of Ephesus in AD 431) and more importantly, Chalcedon in AD 325. We can learn the most about how this term was originally understood by taking a moment to understand why it appears in the creed produced at Chalcedon.

The debate over the complete deity of Christ had lasted for many decades, continuing on well after the Council of Nicea had finished its work in AD 325, not coming to completion until the Council of Constantinople in AD 381. But once this great truth was properly safeguarded, other questions began to arise.

One of the questions went like this: Granted that Jesus Christ was truly God and inhuman flesh, how then are we to understand the relationship between the divine and the human in Christ? Was He really a man at all? Did His deity swallow up His humanity? Was there some mixture of the two? Or was Jesus two people: one divine and one human, merely sharing one body?

Sadly, the debate was undertaken in anything but a calm and respectful climate. More time was spent on political maneuvering than upon meaningful exegesis. But despite the rancor of the debate, the resulting understanding was very important, especially for our understanding of the term theotokos.

Debate Over the Nature of Christ

One of the principal participants in the debate over the nature of Christ was a man named Nestorius. But since he was eventually condemned as a heretic, we have some doubts as to whether we a completely accurate (or fair) view of his beliefs, as they have come down to us primarily through the writings of his enemies.

Basically, Nestorius objected to the use of the word theotokos. He quite rightly expressed concern that the word could be easily misunderstood. But most importantly, his denial of the propriety of theotokos led him to insist that Mary was the mother of the human “element” of Christ, which resulted in a functional separation of the divine from the human in Christ. The basic danger of Nestorius’ position, then, was that it led to a Jesus who was two “persons,” with no real connection between the divine and the human.

Those who defended the use of theotokos did so by insisting that the Messiah was fully human and fully divine from the moment of conception, hence, the Child who was born was not only a human Child with deity dwelling in him but was the God-Man, the Incarnate One.

Chalcedon insisted that Jesus was one Person with two distinct natures, the divine and the human. The divine did not “swallow up” the human, nor was it “mixed” with the human to create something that was neither fully God nor fully man. Nor was Jesus schizophrenic – a human person, Jesus, and a divine Person, separate from Him. He was one person with two natures.

What is vitally important today is that the term “God-bearer” as it was used in the creed and as it was applied to Mary in these controversies said something about the nature of Christ, not the nature of Mary. “Mother of God” is a phrase that has proper theological meaning only in reference to Christ.

Hence, any use of the term that is not simply saying, “Jesus is fully God, one divine Person with two natures,” is using the term anachronistically, and cannot claim the authority of the early church for such a usage.

*Get Dr. James White’s book “Mary, Another Redeemer” here.

The Misuse of the Term Today

Outside of the seminary classes and theological debates about the Trinity, you will not hear the term “Mother of God” used in a historically proper and theologically accurate way. That is, every time you hear the title used outside those contexts it was being used to say something about Mary rather than something about Christ.

Obviously, Nestorius was right about one thing: the term is liable to serious misuse and misunderstanding.

Conclusion

Mary is not the mother of God in the sense that she gave rise to the being of God. We normally use the word “mother” to refer to the one who gave rise to us as individuals, and from whom we derived our human nature. Yet the divine Person who became Jesus, the eternal Son of God (Colossians 1:13-17), the Logos (John 1:1-14), has existed eternally and is the Creator of Mary.

Mary was used to bring the Incarnate One into the world, but she did not add to or give rise to the Eternal son who came into the world through her. Her Child was fully divine (hence she is theotokos) but she herself did not give rise to the divinity of her Son. For this reason, there can be nothing about the term theotokos that in any way exalts Mary, but only Christ.

Of course, if this is true, then the vast majority of the use of the phrase “Mother of God” in our world today is simply in error. Prayers addressed to “Mother of God” that seek her intercession and ascribe to her power and glory and honor are using the title in a way completely foreign to the biblical truths that gave rise to it in the first place.

And the fact that, in general, the term is avoided as improper outside the narrow spectrum in which it speaks to the important truth of the uni-personality of Christ, as well as His full deity, is a testimony to the spiritual sensitivity of believing Christians.

We cannot help but conclude that the use of “Mother of God” as a title for Mary that leads to her being seen in quasi-divine categories is nothing but a gross misunderstanding of the true relationship between the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth and the eternal God who sent the eternal Son to be born of her.


*Reference: Mary-Another Redeemer? – eBook  By James R. White 

Mary, Another Redeemer? explores Roman Catholic teachings about Mary from a biblical and historical perspective. Skilled and knowledgeable author James White traces how the Mary of the Bible – esteemed mother of the Lord, obedient servant and chosen vessel of God–has become the Immaculately Conceived, Bodily Assumed Queen of Heaven, viewed as Co-Mediator with Christ, and now widely recognized as Co-Redeemer by many in the Catholic Church.

A calm, even-handed look at the woman the Bible calls “blessed among women” – and an invitation to single-minded devotion to God’s truth.

About the author: 

James R. White is the author of several acclaimed books, including The God Who Justifies, Scripture Alone, The King James Only Controversy and The Forgotten Trinity. The director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, he is an accomplished debater of Muslim apologists and an elder of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church. He and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona. 

10 Replies to “Why Mary Is Not The Mother Of God”

  1. Hi there,

    I am a foreigner to the Bible. I know few things about the Lord Jesus Christ. I read your beautifully and logically described article about Mary and I support your conclusion. 

    My rationale is God is the creator of all human being, so all of us including Mary is HIS creation. But as an incarnation (not sure if I can write this word for Lord Jesus, my sincere apology, if this word is inappropriate to use) Mary carried Him. So she can be termed as bearer of Lord not mother in true sense.

    It is the same story with Lord Krishna in Hindu religion, Yasoda carried Him (not His own mother) but she has been referred to as Mother of Lord Krishna.

    I believe most people understand the meaning Mother and God bearer. 

    Again my apology in case if I hurt anyone’s religious belief which I never intended to do so.

    1. Hi Anusuya, I hope you’re doing well.

      I know that people from different cultures and religious affiliations have some ideas about who Jesus is and must have heard stories about Him. We must admit, Jesus is a very popular figure because of His teachings and the impact He had on the lives of many people from all walks of life.

      I am glad we’re on the same page as to who God is — the Creator of all things, including Mary so she could not be the “Mother of God.” You know what? You’re absolutely right in using the word incarnation; that’s exactly what took place when Jesus took on human flesh. The Christian doctrine of incarnation is about the pre-existent divine Logos (Koine Greek for Word in John 1:1-14), the Son of God and second divine Person in the Trinity, became flesh by assuming a human nature and became a man, that is Jesus Christ. Mary carried Him so the term God-bearer or “theotokos.”

      I find it interesting that there is a similar story to this in the Hindu religion. But has Lord Krishna also existed eternally as a divine being and just assumed human form through incarnation?

      By the way, there’s no need for you to apologize.

      Blessings!

  2. Hi,

    I am glad that I came across the website that you have been called to create. I have to admit, I found this post to be thought provoking. Like you I grew up in the Catholic church. Then as a young adult, I spent time in several other churches where I learned to read the bible and to experience God working in my life.

    The thing that is kind of weird is that within the last year, I now call a catholic church my home. Now that I know more about the bible, I realize they, or at least my church, is not as far off from the bible’s teachings as what I initially thought.  

    As I read this post, I found myself very thankful that I have never gotten into a debate with anyone about Mary being the mother of God. In fact, I didn’t realize there were so many people that think that she is.    

    Sometimes people are so convinced in what they think they know or believe that they have a hard time accepting a different view point.    

    As we approach the Christmas season, I feel that it is important that we realize how challenging it must have been for Mary to realize that she was pregnant even though she was a young virgin.    Yet, God is amazing in the ways that He works. I, for one, am so grateful that he chose a seemingly ordinary girl to give birth to Jesus Christ.   

    God’s love and compassion is not only for the rich, wealthy, or highly educated. Through His son, Jesus Christ, we can be assured that God knows the trials and tribulations that we face. He also knows that we are not and never will be perfect.  

    Well, my response has gotten long.    

    I pray that your week is filled with grace and peace.  

    1. Shalom Sondra, thank you so much for reading the article and sharing your thoughts in regards to who Mary is to the Catholic church.

      You are absolutely right! There are actually Catholics today who do not hold to all the doctrines held and taught by the Roman Catholic church. And this came as a result of regular Bible reading and study. If every Christian would just read and study their Bible and submit to its final authority as the Word of God, I believe there wouldn’t be any need for discussions like this.

      Some say that Christians should not focus on their differences, but rather on their similarities. I agree! But let me ask, “If what your neighbor believes and practices is against the Word of God, would you not let them know?” We can talk about love, caring, compassion, etc, all we want but if we do not tell people the truth, God will hold us accountable in the end.

      But there is a right way to do things. We cannot just approach somebody and say, “Hey, you’re wrong about this and that!” We need the wisdom of God to make them realize that calling Mary the mother of God is unbiblical and praying to God through her is wrong.

      In the same way that God fulfilled His plan to bring a Savior into the world because Mary willingly accepted God’s calling, we too can be an instrument of God in doing His task. All God needs from us is our willingness and submission.

      God bless you and may you have a Merry Christmas!

  3. Being raised a Christian and having heard this prior to reading your article I never gave it very much thought.  It is a very debatable phrase for a Christian in that “Mother of God” in my opinion could not refer to Mary mother of Jesus Christ.  

    And as a Christian I believe in the Trinity which means that Jesus Christ is not God but the son of God and the Holy Spirit being the third of the Trinity.  But I do believe this would begin another completely different discussion.  

    Thank you for these views and I am sure you are going to have many people debating this phrases and its appropriate use.

    Susan

    1. Hello Susan, thank you for taking the time to read the article.

      If you were to really listen to the reasoning of those who call Mary the “Mother of God” you will find it unthinkable how they have come to that conclusion. But hey, they did not come up with this all on their own. They were raised believing this is the proper way to honor Mary, God’s chosen vessel to bring Jesus Christ into this world. So we have to carefully explain to them from a sound biblical perspective why this is a gross misunderstanding.

      As to the Trinity, I can refute what you said about Jesus being the Son of God but not God. But I would rather refer you to an article to explain why a correct understanding of the Bible will lead one to conclude that Jesus being the Son of God makes Him God. Here’s the article, I how you will take the time to read and tell me what you think about it.

      https://biblical-christianity.com/arguments-against-the-deity-of-christ

      Merry Christmas!

  4. Very interesting article about the “Mother of God” which is actually how I was raised, as I was raised Catholic.  I do not currently attend the Catholic Church, however, and have come to realize some problems within the church, like all the Mary statues, which God frowns upon.  They do tend to idolize Mary for some reason and even have prayers to her directly.  So great article.  I’d love to show my Mom, but she would probably be pretty upset.  LOL.

    1. Hello Babsie, thank you for your comment. Most of us have been raised in the traditional faith (Catholic) so we know what is being taught. Having been raised in the Catholic faith and attended Catholic schools, I literally practiced and followed every doctrine they teach. And just like you, I came to realize that something was “wrong” because a lot of the things they practice aren’t inline with biblical doctrines.

      I understand that there are those who call themselves “devoted Catholics” and these are the people who are rather difficult to reach and share biblical truths to. In the case of your mom, I don’t think it’s a good idea to let her read stuff like this before making her understand beforehand that the Bible is the final authority, not the Catholic church led by the papacy, or any other church for that matter.

      If we start the sharing (or discussion) by attacking their church about what they believe and teach about Mary, statues, etc., they will become defensive and won’t listen anymore to whatever we are going to say as they are busy thinking about their defense. But we can show them the truth by continuously sharing with them what the Bible really teaches and most especially by loving them the same way Jesus loves us.

      God bless!

  5. Thank you for sharing with us this inspiring post. Yes, Mary is not the mother of God because Mary is human and a human being can’t create God.

    I know well that there is only one God who is the creator of humanity and I believe in him.

    Mary has fulfilled the will of God by giving birth to Jesus who had been with God in the beginning so that he come to save humanity.

    1. Hello Julienne, thanks for stopping by and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this rather controversial topic. The Bible is very clear that God created all things in heaven and on earth, and that includes us. We are created beings and so as Mary so she could not be the mother of God. God exists all on His own; He has existed from eternity past and will continue to exist up to eternity in the future.

      I know a lot of Catholics who do not hold to this teaching anymore as a result of diligently doing their part of reading and studying Scriptures. I just hope more people will be enlightened regarding this doctrinal error.

      Blessings!

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